I am writing a dissertation on the sense of agency. I am particularly focused on cases from psychopathology in which the experience of agency is in some sense illusory. I also work on the philosophical conception of willpower and its relation to the sense of agency and mental disorder. More generally, I am interested in theorizing about mental illness with an aim toward adding new empirical data and philosophical perspectives to existing debates within philosophy of mind and action.
A Paper on the Sense of Agency and Anorexia
[title redacted, under review]
The disorders that receive the most attention in the sense of agency literature tend to be those that demonstrate a subject’s lack of agentive awareness (e.g. schizophrenic thought insertion and delusions of alien control). In this paper I focus on a new case, namely anorexia, in which the subject’s sense of agency is in some respects confabulatory—i.e. where the sense of agency is excessive. I offer a novel development of a model for the sense of agency that was originally proposed by Tim Bayne and Elisabeth Pacherie, and I use this model to explain a poorly understood feature of anorexia. The result is a refined account for the sense of agency that is of interest to philosophers of mind as well as researchers seeking to better understand anorexia.
Addiction and Willpower: Solving the Mismatch Problem
In this paper I challenge the common assumption that chronic addiction is in some way connected to, or is partially caused by, deficient willpower. I do this by highlighting the fact that standard drug addiction shares deep neurological and behavioral similarities with anorexia nervosa, a disorder commonly associated with above-average willpower. This in turn generates what I call the "mismatch problem" between the commonsense notion of willpower and addiction broadly construed. I resolve this problem by arguing that the phenomenology that is often tied to the exercise one's will in the case of addictive desires has been misidentified by philosophers. After providing my own positive account of the phenomenology in question, I suggest a way forward in developing a theory of chronic addiction in light of the findings from the paper. This project overlaps with and can be seen as a further development of my paper on the sense of agency and anorexia.